John Southworth

Yosemite

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John Southworth's most immediately appealing album since 1997's masterfully baroque Mars, Pennsylvania, Yosemite wears its Californian title proudly: the key influence on this British-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter for his fourth full-length album seems to be that peculiarly Los Angeles-style blend of acoustic guitars, creamy vocals and unapologetically glossy arrangements that defined the softer side of '70s rock from the release of Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album to Fleetwood Mac's new wave freak-out Tusk. Opening track "General Store" has the bubblegummy bounce, complete with handclaps and the sweet-voiced backing vocals, of a classic Partridge Family single. Elsewhere, songs like "Small Country Airport," the beautifully delicate "Simple Simple Boy," "Applecart" (which has a maddeningly brilliant whistled hook) and the simply gorgeous, High Llamas-like "Old-Fashioned Rivers of Rhyme" manage the impressive trick of vaguely recalling Surf's Up-era Beach Boys without descending into shameless mimicry. Like all of Southworth's albums, it takes a few listens for the songs' more subtle charms to manifest themselves, but Yosemite is simply outstanding.

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